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Eyes and Ears in Space

Eyes and Ears in Space

Gravitational waves have finally been detected.

“We have detected gravitational waves. We did it,” said David Reitze, executive director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (Ligo), at a press conference in Washington. This isn’t just another little discovery that has no major effect, it is the beginning of a completely new age in which we explore the endlessness that is space.


In a galaxy far far away two black holes ,both about 35 times the size of our sun, rotated each other in a tango among the stars, they came together in what looked like a cosmic figure-eight. The two pulled each other closer until they collided into each other as they neared light speed. As they were about to merge they were rotating each other 250 times a second. The staggering strength of the merger gave rise to a new black hole and created a gravitational field so strong that it distorted space time in waves that spread throughout space with a power about 50 times stronger than that of all the shining stars and galaxies in the observable universe. Oh but this is old news, in fact very old news. The two holes merged about 1.3 billion years ago and the waves are now reaching us.


The scientists at LIGO have built two devices, called laser interferometers one in Washington and the other in Louisiana, that have the ability measure these extremely small waves. The machine looks like huge concrete L that extends four Kilometers each direction. Inside these tubes there is a lot happening; a laser is being projected throughout both tubes by being divided by a semi reflective mirror. The now two beams travel the length of the pipes and are

once again reflected by a mirror set at the end of the tube. The light then is returned to the mirror that separated them and at that mirror the two beams cancel each other out if the arms are the same length, and no light would be detected. But a passing gravitational wave would stretch one arm and compress the other causing the light to flash in a rhythmic motion.


On Sept. 14, 2015 a flickering light was detected by the devices and that flashing was translated into noise. All stood quietly as the noise started to play, the noise they heard was like a bird chirping on a walk through the park, but was the sound of the first confirmation of gravitational waves created by the two black holes which collided 1.3 billion years ago which have traveled at the speed of light to reach our planet. What they heard was the start of something which no one had ever heard  before them. What they heard was the end of a 100 year struggle to prove Einstein’s theory of relativity. With this breakthrough we now have eyes and ears in space. Now that the scientists have done this they plan on hearing the rumbles of the Big Bang with their new technology.

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